13.26: Character Relationships

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

Our characters become far more interesting when they begin interacting with each other. These interactions—these relationships—are often how our stories get told. In this episode we explore ways in which we can fine tune relationships in service of our stories.

The tools include the Kowal Relationship Axes (Mind, Money, Morals, Manners, Monogamy, and The Marx Brothers) and the differences between personal and position power.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Apply the relationship axes to a pair of your characters.

The Calculating Stars, and The Fated Skyby Mary Robinette Kowal

13.25: Our Journey With Character

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

Brandon wanted to ask us how our perspectives on character have changed since the very beginning of our writing. It’s a difficult question to answer, and a very soulful sort of thing to answer in front of other people. So Brandon went first while the rest of us racked our brains.

What are you going to learn from this episode? Well… you might learn a bit about each of us, but it’s also possible that you’ll learn something about your own writing, and find yourself able to navigate the next few steps on your journey with character.

Note: The apology strips Howard mentioned begin with this strip. They are part of a story that begins here.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

Play

Describe your journey with character to someone else.

My Lady Jane, by Brodie Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows

13.24: What Writers Get Wrong, with Piper, Aliette, and Wesley, with special guest Ken Liu

Your Hosts: Piper Drake, Aliette de Bodard, and Wesley Chu, with special guest Ken Liu

Our hosts for this episode are experts in a great many different things. One thing that they have in common is that they’re all members of the Asian Disapora, and in this episode we’ll learn what kinds of things writers get wrong when writing Asian Diaspora elements, and how we as writers can learn to get those things right.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson

 

Play

Read China Men, by Maxine Hong Kingston

13.23: Internal Conflicts

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Amal, and Maurice

Internal conflicts, simply put, are problems your characters have with themselves. In this episode we address the ways in which writers can build stories and subplots around internal conflicts, and how we can tell when it’s not working.

Notes: the MICE quotient is Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. Mary’s relationship axes are Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Use the Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence axes to define one of your characters. Then determine how each of these creates conflict with the one following it in the list.

An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

13.22: Character Arcs

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

When Mary says we could do fifteen different episodes on character arcs, she’s being conservative. Notwithstanding, we set out to talk meaningfully about character arcs in one episode rather than in fifteen (or fifty.) We look at the shapes of these arcs, how they progress in our narratives, and the tools we use to get them to function properly in the context of our larger works.

Notes: Elizabeth Boyle‘s DREAM tool for plotting character change is easier to remember when written out. So here it is!

  • Denial
  • Resistance
  • Exploration
  • Acceptance
  • Manifestation

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson and mastered by Alex Jackson

Play

Let’s apply DREAM to plotting a sideways character arc in which a character changes, but the change is neither triumphant nor tragic.

13.21: Q&A on Character Depth and Motivation

Your Hosts: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, and Howard

Our listeners submitted some great questions!

  • How do you fairly and even-handedly write a deeply compelling character you deeply dislike?
  • What’s the best way to discuss a character’s underlying motivations without expressly stating them in narrative or dialog?
  • How well should characters understand their own motivations?
  • How do you make non-violent characters interesting?
  • Can there be too much depth to a character?
  • How do you balance character depth across multiple attributes?
  • How do you make a character motivation seem deep when most people’s motivations are actually pretty shallow?
  • Do you create standard dossiers for your characters?
  • Does your story have to have a villain?
  • How do you know whether or not a character’s voice is working?
  • Do you track words or phrases that are unique to a particular character’s voice?

Liner Notes: Brandon mentioned Howard’s “Tyrannopotomus Rex” doodle as part of the writing prompt. Here it is, should you need visual reference.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.

Play

Write a story about Howard’s “Tyrannopotumus Rex.” (Yes, it can be a story about how that’s not what a real tyrannopotomus rex looks like.)

Pitch Dark, by Courtney Alameda